As part of the ViewPoint series, Paul Beesley, Prince’s Trust acting regional director for the West Midlands, talks about the charity’s work in the region
With youth unemployment levels continuing to reach record highs, the prospects for a generation of young people are looking increasingly bleak.
Here in Birmingham around a quarter of young people are struggling to find a job. This untapped potential is a tragedy, not only for the young people – but also for our city’s economy, which is estimated to lose up to £4.3 million per week in benefits and lost productivity.
Here at youth charity The Prince’s Trust we believe every young person deserves a future, whether they’re long-term unemployed, homeless, struggling at school or have been in trouble with the law. When The Prince’s Trust was set up in 1976 it was a time of great social unrest in Britain. The economy was suffering, compounded by trade union strikes, rising inflation and high unemployment. Worryingly as we celebrate our 35th birthday many of these problems have re-emerged today, with the youth of today in the firing line. That makes the work we do at The Prince’s Trust more important than ever.
Unemployment can also have a knock-on effect on a young person’s confidence and mental health, with many of Birmingham’s young people who are out of work saying they have suffered from depression or even self loathing. Sadly, the longer the period they are unemployed for, the more likely they are to experience this psychological scarring.
However, at The Prince’s Trust we believe it doesn’t have to be this way. The one thing that has remained constant throughout the 35 years of the Trust is our absolute and unwavering belief in the city’s young people. I have seen with my own eyes the determination of youngsters to break free of these barriers and there is plenty of hope for the future. Each year, we help hundreds of young people in Birmingham, changing their lives for the better.
But despite this, there are still many more who are struggling and who could be contributing so much to the region if they are given the right support. Thousands lack the skills and confidence to achieve their dreams and only by re-engaging them can we give them the hope to fulfill their potential and break down these barriers.
Over the years I have seen these inspirational young people in Birmingham who are determined to turn things around. Paul Gilmore, from Solihull, is one such example. He set up his own business in 2000, with the help of The Prince’s Trust after struggling to make ends meet, providing his local school with extra-curricular sports activities. PhysKids now services schools across the whole of the West Midlands and he sub-contracts the work to over 200 people. The business was so successful that he went on to set up a gym for young people in 2006 so he could offer them an exit route upon leaving school. There are now six gyms franchised across the West Midlands and Paul offers apprenticeships to disadvantaged young people struggling to find employment. Paul is the current European kick-boxing champion and the captain of the England team and he currently delivers a Get Started with Martial Arts programme for The Prince’s Trust.
Paul is just one example of the hundreds of people The Prince’s Trust helps in Birmingham every year. However, we wouldn’t be able to provide this support without our network of partners and supporters in the region who help us to change so many young lives.
It is imperative that local employers, government and charities work together to ensure all young people get the support they need - and deserve - to move into the workplace. We cannot afford to take the risk that the immense talent we have across Birmingham goes to waste. Now we need further funds to support more young people across the region, helping them escape long-term unemployment for good.
We need to raise £1 million a week to continue giving unemployed young people across the UK the confidence and skills to get into work, education or training and any donation to the Trust will make a huge difference. Now more than ever we need your support to make sure we continue our work for the next 35 years and into the future.
We’ve supported thousands of young people in Birmingham since 1976. Together, we can support thousands more.